Tick-Borne Illnesses

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June 02, 2011

If a tick bites you, it's important to be aware of symptoms associated with tick-related diseases. Two that may be more commonly recognized are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Each illnesses can mimic or appear to be related to another condition; however, they both may produce a telltale rash.
  • Lyme disease-This disease is transmitted by the deer tick, which is brown and smaller than a wood tick. These ticks are found throughout the U.S. Only a few carry the infectious agent, but if an infected tick bites you, the longer it's attached to the skin, the greater the risk you'll be infected. Several days after the bite, a red, circular-shaped rash may develop around the bite and flu-like symptoms may follow. When caught early, oral antibiotics often prevent complications. The antibiotic doxycycline is the drug of choice. If Lyme disease isn't treated, problems may develop. Arthritis, Bell's palsy, heart problems and neurological symptoms may occur within several months.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever-This is the second most common tick-borne infection in the U.S. It is transmitted by several types of ticks including the wood tick and American dog tick. Symptoms of this illness can be flu-like. A red rash may appear on wrists and ankles, eventually spreading up the arms and legs to the chest. A mild case that's treated promptly typically causes few problems. Left untreated, Rocky Mountain spotted fever may cause serious complications, such as heart, lung or kidney failure, or a brain infection called encephalitis, which can lead to a coma.
If you've been bitten by a tick and develop a rash, fever or swollen lymph nodes, see your doctor. Left untreated, these infections can even be life-threatening. Fortunately, antibiotic treatment is usually successful, particularly when treatment is started early.

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